Saturday, February 04, 2006

Precepts, power, oil, and Republicans

Every now and then some confluence of events comes along that can be used to illustrate that while the subject matter of this blog is often seemingly disjoint and disparate, it can all be tied together like some science history narrative by James Burke...

My conservative colleague recently opined that I was being "hypocritical" for calling for policies that end our dependence on oil while profitting from them.

Now to me, it's a simple issue of power. Not electric power, but from what you read below you can make your own metaphors... My colleague oddly enough, holds that "power corrupts" - but doesn't connect that to the fact that his team is in power or perhaps he does and and doesn't really care. In fact I think that's it, or at least he's in heavy denial that his team's not scarfing up more political power than any one since Adams...but back to the oil thing. Yes it's a simple issue of power: in this case, econmic power is political power, and acquiring more economic power allows more leverage to be used as political power.

I am reminded of a book I read a long, long time ago: "Power and Innocence: A search for the Sources of Violence," by Rollo May, in which May pointed out that a pesudo-innocence, a learned or enforced powerlessness is a fundamentally unstable situation for human beings. May of course is goddam right on this point: anyone who's been around a healthy, well-loved baby becoming a toddler sees first hand the exercise of power.

And, certainly in the Buddhist morality, such self-enforced pesudo-innocent powerlessness, is in effect a harm to one's self and others (what could you have done with that power otherwise?), taking something not freely given, in a sense (because you really have the power, you have the resonsibility to act; you are taking the absolution of responsibility from action) and, a form of false speech. Now the structures in one's psyche by which one composes such mental prisons I am not aware, except of the prisons of past actions that still affect me today. But for Chrissakes, you're going to be dead for an awful long time. Act! Use your ?-given testicles!

I'm going to re-read May's book, even though May though is not always a reliable guide despite his often valuable insight; too often his retreats into literary criticism result in some overwhelming grand counter-narrative being propounded that has as much import as Fox News. I'm thinking of one section of the book, where he responded that someone's quip about the walk on the moon by astronauts being an "extravehicular activity" wasn't poetic, but "walking on the moon" was. (I had originally typed "astronaughts" -have at it, archair psychiatrists!) If I were in May's presence I'd have upbraided him for not seeing the obvious pun on "extracurricular activity." But I think he's dead, so that's all moot...

In particular, though, in May's book there is a section - written during the Vietnam war- about how language is affected by powerlessness that's particularly apt today. I am reminded of this because of something else my colleage said in this regard: the oil companies "earned" their windfall profits- repeating, conciously or not, a Fox News delivered Republican talking point. Now on my side of the aisle, I have some deep reservations about the groupthink in Kos, and the willingness to blur opinion with fact by Avarosis, and at times, Duncan Black. IOW, I try not to check my brains at the door, or at least understand that brain-checking-at-the-door can be a default activity for humans if they're not careful. I try not to succumb to the siren sermon of the Grand Inquisitor, and I understand the issues- at least intellectually- with Hyakujo's Fox..

There's no real need. Having said all of that, - again we must act in this world- the genjokoan du jour is (cool - I got two foreign bon mots - make that 3!- in 2 different languages in this sentence- but I do not suffer from ADD, do I?) - the genjokoan du jour is: while focusing mindfully on the behavior of this bag of skin writting this, what is the power I can use to help my colleague awaken? The folks at Kos? My son? My wife? Myself?

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I just answered my own question...

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